« PreviousContinue »
And do you think of this truth, sinners ? When you offend the Lord of hosts, you will in vain seek a shelter from his justice. The most powerful of creatures will become your enemies; instead of protecting you on earth, guarding your soul at death, and becoming your companions for eternity, they will become the executioners of divine vengeance upon you; they will tear your unwilling soul from your body, and hurl it to the regions of wo!
God grant that this may never be the case with any of us! God grant that, as he which hath called us is holy, so we “may be holy in all manner of conversation !
FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD.
1 JOHN i. 3.
Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus
In what does true piety consist? What is that sincere godliness, which will secure for us the favour and protection of God during our lives; which will enlighten before us the gloomy vale of death; which will strip the judgment-bar of its terrors; and obtain for us a blissful eternity? Put this question to mankind, and a thousand different and contradictory answers will be given. That vain formalist will tell you, that true piety consists in a diligent attendance upon all the outward ordinances of religion; in maintaining the orthodox creed, and in expressing an abhorrence of infidel sentiments and libertine principles. Now though all this is commendable, yet all this
may be done without the least degree of holy love to God; all this is very far from constituting vital Christianity. That proud legalist will tell you, that sincere godliness consists in honesty, temperance, benevolence to our fellow-men, and in a strict attention to all the social duties. Now, though without such conduct we cannot be Christians; though such conduct makes us love and respect the persons who practise it; though these virtues tend to the benefit of society, and obtain as their reward the approbation of society; yet they cannot obtain the approbation of God; they cannot be regarded as acts of piety, unless their source be holy, unless they flow from a renewed nature and a sanctified heart. That self-deceiving enthusiast will tell you, that true piety consists in certain glows of affection, in certain raptures of soul, in certain ecstasies and elevations of mind. Now, though the soul of the Christian is warm and fervent; though God sometimes favours him with blissful and transporting seasons; though he sometimes in a single moment enjoys a felicity which more than counterpoises all the pleasures resulting from all earthly objects-yet still pure religion is something distinct from, is something greater, than glows of passion and ardours of soul, which may result from natural causes, when the heart is a stranger to regenerating grace, and which may be wanting to the real child of God.
But it would be endless to mention the several replies which men, ingenious to deceive themselves, and to stifle the reproaches of conscience, give to this question. Let us then turn from them, and consult the oracles of truth; in these we shall find it uniformly asserted, that true piety consists in fellowship with God, in communion with the Source of life, of joy, and of blessedness. Without this fellowship, all our fond hopes of heaven, however confident they may be, will be found delusive; will vanish, when God taketh away the soul, and leave us to bitter regret, to unavailing anguish; without this fellowship
we can, whilst on earth, enjoy no religious comforts except those which are the result of self-deception, and we are totally unprepared and indisposed to join in the employments of the world of purity. Favour me then with your attention, whilst I show you what is meant by that fellowship with God, which is enjoyed by every Christian, and which is enjoyed by none but the Christian.
In order to have precise views of this subject, we must begin by inquiring, what is meant by the word fellowship? This inquiry is so much the more necessary, because there are many Christians who suppose that fellowship with God is an act, rather than a settled state and confirmed habit of the soul; who suppose that fellowship with God consists in high joys and raptures, which in truth are often the fruit of it, but which nevertheless are not absolutely essential to it, and may be separated from it. What then is meant by fellowship, in its most extensive senses?
1. To have fellowship with others originally signifies, to possess something in common with others; to have something in state, relation, and enjoyments, of which we and others mutually partake: thus we have a fellowship of nature with all the human spe. cies; we have fellowship with the angels in our intellectual powers, and with the beasts in our bodily faculties. Thus the apostle says in the words immediately preceding the text, “ That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that
also may have fellowship with us;" that is, that ye may be admitted to a community of blessings, privileges, and promises. Thus Paul exhorts us, “ Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness;", that is, let there be nothing in common to these
works and your conduct. This is the first sense in which fellowship is used; but,
2. This word is often taken in a much wider sense, to denote the intercourse and communication which we have with one another, by giving and receiving favours, by business, by conversation, or in similar manners. Thus the word is 'used, (Acts ii. 42.) “ They. continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship;" that is, in Christian intercourse with them. And so in a variety of other places.
Now from these observations we immediately perceive what is the nature of that fellowship with God which is essential to the Christian character. It evidently must include these two things:
I. The possession of certain things in common with God; and,
II. An intimate intercourse with him.
1. Fellowship with God implies, that there are certain things common between God and the believer. In vain do we flatter ourselves that our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ,” unless, according to our measure and degree, we have attributes, aims, wills, affections, and interests, similar to those of God.
1. Believers have fellowship with God, by having all the divine attributes enstamped upon their souls ; by being moulded into a resemblance of the divine nature; by having the divine image, which was lost by the apostacy of Adam, re-impressed upon them by the Spirit of God. This is real fellowship: this is that fellowship which the angels and glorified spirits enjoy in heaven; where, seeing God as he is, they become like unto him; where, receiving the infuxes of his glory, they are assimilated to him. And